Remembering A UK Legend

Reported by: Alex Risen
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Updated: 7/28 7:08 pm

Funeral arrangements and a public visitation are being planned for Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones, one of the most accomplished athletes in the history of the University of Kentucky, who passed away Sunday in Lexington at the age of 88.

Jones played basketball, football and baseball at Kentucky in the late 1940s and is the only Wildcat athlete to have his jersey retired in basketball and football. He came to UK from his native Harlan, Ky., where he set a national scoring record in basketball with 2,398 points and led Harlan High School to the state championship. He was all-state in basketball, football and baseball.

At UK, Jones played football from 1945-48 and twice earned All-Southeastern Conference accolades from The Associated Press, first team as a sophomore and third team as a senior.  He led the Wildcats in receiving in 1947 and ’48, the only two seasons for which receiving statistics are available, with nine catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns as a junior, followed by 19 receptions for 243 yards and five TDs as a senior.  He helped UK to its first bowl appearance, a 24-14 victory over Villanova in the 1947 Great Lakes Bowl.  He played his last three seasons under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Jones played basketball from the 1945-46 season through 1948-49, and was a three-time All-American – first-team as a senior, third-team as a junior and second-team as a sophomore.  He earned first-team All-SEC honors all four years.  He totaled 1,131 points during his career.

Jones helped lead the Wildcats to a 130-10 record over his four seasons and numerous championships under Coach Adolph Rupp:

  • 1948 and 1949 NCAA Champions
  • 1946 NIT Champions
  • Four SEC regular-season championships
  • Four SEC Tournament championships
  • 1948 Olympic champions

In 1947-48, he was a member of the “Fabulous Five,” along with Ralph Beard, Alex Groza, Cliff Barker and Kenny Rollins, that won the NCAA and Olympic titles.

“The word ‘legend’ is used frequently in our society but it is truly fitting when considering Wah Wah Jones,” said UK Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart. “Wah Wah holds a legendary place in the athletic history of our state as a three-sport star at Harlan High School and the University of Kentucky.  Wah Wah was a central figure during a golden era of Wildcat athletics, noted for his outstanding performances and his versatility.  Our condolences and prayers go out to his family and he will be remembered fondly by the Big Blue Nation.”

Following his time as a Wildcat, Jones was selected by Washington with the No. 9 pick in the first round of the 1949 NBA Draft.  He was traded to the Indianapolis Olympians and played three seasons for that team.

After his NBA career, Jones returned to Lexington and was elected Sheriff of Fayette County in 1953.  He is also known for founding Blue Grass Tours in 1978, which continues today with his son, Wallace, as owner.

Jones is a member of the State of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame, the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame and the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame.

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